SOURCE: Journal of the American Heart Association, news release, May 20, 2015
WEDNESDAY, May 20, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Support groups that encourage walking exercises at home can improve the mobility of people with clogged leg arteries, a new study finds.
Clogged leg arteries -- called peripheral artery disease -- can cause pain and fatigue while walking. This often limits mobility, which is crucial for independent living, doing daily tasks and socializing, the study authors explained.
"Patients should understand that home-based exercise can help prevent mobility loss, and health care providers should recognize that this kind of exercise can be beneficial for their patients with peripheral artery disease," said study lead author Dr. Mary McDermott, a professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
Research has shown that supervised treadmill workouts improve walking ability among people with peripheral artery disease, but most insurers don't pay for the therapy, McDermott's team said. Also, it can be difficult for patients to make regular trips to an exercise facility, the researchers added.
This study included 194 patients with peripheral artery disease, aged 65 and older, who were randomly assigned to an exercise group or a "control" group.
For six months, those in the exercise group took part in weekly professionally led group sessions that encouraged walking exercise at home at least five days a week. Over a second six-month period, they received phone calls from the group leader encouraging them to continue walking at least five days a week.
Those in the control group went to weekly lectures on health topics unrelated to exercise.
At six-month or 12-month follow-up visits, four out of five patients in the exercise group had regained mobility -- meaning they could climb a flight of stairs or walk one-fourth of a mile without help -- compared with just over 36 percent of those in the control group, the findings showed.
After 12 months, those in the exercise group also showed significant improvement in walking speed over 13 feet, repeated chair rises and standing balance.
Mobility loss at any time during the study occurred among nearly 9 percent of patients in the exercise group and 34 percent of those in the control group, according to the study published May 20 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
"These findings are particularly important because peripheral artery disease patients have significantly higher rates of mobility loss compared to those without [the disease]," McDermott said in a journal news release.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about peripheral artery disease.